Skip to Main Content


About this Page

Below is a step-by-step example of how to perform basic keyword searches and narrow search results in library databases. Though search topics and keywords vary, the skills remain the same. Try to apply these screenshots to your own keywords and research.

For more detailed information and helpful tutorials, visit the library's YouTube page or email me to set up an appointment. If you are not finding anything after a few searches, try a different database or take a break. Try not to get frustrated, it can be difficult and requires practice!

Determining Keywords

Before you begin searching, it is important to determine the keywords, the most important words, of your research question or topic. One of the quickest ways to do so is to pick out the nouns, leaving the verbs, adjectives, etc.

Example Question:

How are disparities between pre- and post-natal care between women of color and white women addressed in the United States?


women of color

white women

pre-natal care

post-natal care

United States

Using your proposed paper topics, determine some keywords that you think will find you the most relevant or useful sources in the databases.



Performing Keyword Searches

On the "Find Articles" tab of this guide, select a database that you think will be useful. Hint: You can search multiple databases at the same time when using EBSCO by clicking "Choose Databases" and selecting whatever you think will help you. You'll see which ones I recommend adding to your search in the image below. Hover over the speech bubbles next to the titles to read the descriptions of the databases and add more if you think they'll be relevant.




Input your chosen keywords. Use each box for a different word so you can keep track (this will help you later!). Click "search."



Not seeing a whole lot of results? Add synonyms, typing "OR" between each word. (This is why it's important to separate your keywords!) Remember to click "search" again.



Try different combinations of words and phrases and see if and how your results change. When you are happy, move on to "Narrowing Your Search Results"

Narrowing Your Search Results

Depending on how many results you have, and how relevant your results are, you can narrow your search in many different ways. Look at "Refine Results" on the left side of your screen, noting that you can immediately limit to Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals, and by date if you want more current content.


Explore the other drop down menus to see how they limit your results. Note, to choose more than one subject term, click "show more."



Selecting an Article

When you are comfortable with your results, click a title that interests you. What you see next is called a "Detailed Record," and the information in it is designed to help you decide if you want to read the article or continue searching. Look at the detailed record and think about how it will help you with your research.

You can save, cite, email, and locate the full text of your article from the detailed record. You may need to use interlibrary loan to do this. Don't worry, it's free and there's a tab on this guide that shows you how! Let the subject terms and abstract help you decide if it's worth your time and effort to read the full article.